Last weekend’s trip to Aston Villa was postponed because of a Covid outbreak at the Midlands club. The Toffees were given plenty of notice, unlike last month’s meeting with Man City, but it was still frustrating as they were unable to build on the momentum gained with that superb victory at Wolves.
Instead, they have had to watch from the sidelines as teams around them in the table picked up points to nudge Everton out of the top six. Win their games in hand and they go joint second, but who knows what form they will be in when those games come around.
For now, though, attention turns to the FA Cup and the quest to end that painful wait for silverware.
The fifth round draw has already been made, with Everton drawn to face either Wycombe or Tottenham at home. A tough tie, but an eminently winnable one. And while I’m sure the team will focus on the task in hand and not look too far ahead, a glimpse of what would come next should hopefully provide extra motivation to get the job done.
Of course, if you know your history then you will know FA Cup games against Sheffield Wednesday bring back special memories for the Toffees.
The Owls where their opponents at Wembley in the 1966 FA Cup final, when Everton fought back from 2-0 down to lift the trophy for a third time.
It was also the scene of one of the earliest and funniest pitch invasions. Eddie Kavanagh never played for Everton, but he has a special place in the club’s history!
Sheffield Wednesday return to Goodison Park nearly 20 years since their last visit - a 1-1 Premier League draw in March 2000.
The Owls were relegated at the end of that campaign, a disappointing collapse for a side that had reached two Wembley cup finals just a few years before.
The downward spiral would not end there, the club enduring two spells down in League One over the intervening 20 years.
They have rarely threatened to break back into the top flight since, bar two play-off appearances a few seasons ago which saw them lose to Hull in the 2016 final before losing to Huddersfield in the semi-finals the following year.
The last few months have been equally eventful. In July the club was found guilty of breaching EFL spending rules and docked 12 points, later reduced to six points on appeal.
In November they sacked Garry Monk after a poor start to the season and replaced him with Tony Pulis. However, Pulis would spend just 45 days and 10 games in charge, winning just once, before being sacked at the end of last month.
Neil Thompson took interim charge and led them to two wins in his first two matches. He was then forced to miss the FA Cup third round win at Exeter because of a Covid outbreak, with academy boss Andy Holdsworth overseeing the 2-0 victory.
That Covid outbreak was serious enough to close the club’s training ground and force their last two Championship matches to be postponed, meaning they have not played since that third round win at Exeter on January 8.
Sheffield Wed 0-2 Everton Carabao Cup second round September 24, 2019
Two goals from former Sheffield United striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin helped Marco Silva’s Everton to victory over the Owls in a Carabao Cup tie in September 2019.
Wolves (A) Won 2-1
Rotherham (H - FA Cup) Won 2-1 AET
West Ham (H) Lost 1-0
Sheffield United (A) Won 1-0
Man Utd (H - Carabao Cup) Lost 2-0
Exeter (A - FA Cup) Won 2-0
Derby (H) Won 1-0
Middlesbrough (H) Won 2-0
Blackburn (A) Drew 1-1
Coventry (H) Won 1-0
Carlo Ancelotti has confirmed striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin is fit again after missing the last two games with a hamstring problem. However, the Toffees will be without a number of other key players.
Lucas Digne, Alex Iwobi, Fabian Delph, Jean-Phillipe Gbamin, Niels Nkounkou and Allan all miss out.
Ancelotti added that he expects Iwobi and Digne to return against Leicester in midweek, while Allan should be ready to return against Manchester United in a fortnight.
What they said
Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti: “We know how important the FA Cup is in this country.
“We had difficulties in the first game [Rotherham], we hope to have fewer difficulties in this game, but in the FA Cup there will always be surprises.
“We don’t want to be the negative surprise. We have to approach the game well, we didn’t against Rotherham.
“Sheffield Wednesday is a strong and physical team and want to compete with us. We have to be ready for this.”
Sheffield Wednesday caretaker manager Neil Thompson: “We are in a privileged position in football because the game has kept going when many industries have had to grind to a halt.
“We’re in a really serious situation and that has to be the priority. We feel for the fans, of course we do, and it goes without saying they will be a big miss at Goodison Park, we know our away support is unbelievable. But the health and safety of everyone has to come first.
“If you are beaten by better players and the better team on the day, that’s football. But you should never be beaten by someone working harder than you and it doesn’t matter what division you are in.
“We will be going there giving it all, nothing less than 100%. Going to Goodison Park is a great challenge and we are going there to play on the front foot.”
Everton’s struggles against Rotherham were a timely reminder that no game is easy in this competition.
Sheffield Wednesday have had a difficult few weeks but will arrive at Goodison well rested and in decent form.
This also marks the start of a hectic run of five games in 16 games, including crucial matches against Leicester and Manchester United.
However, the Toffees cannot afford to look too far ahead and will need to treat this game as seriously as any other if they are to make the next round.